The Gold Standard #33

Face front and prepare for action, it was a hell of a huge week for me!

Actually, make that two weeks. Blackouts and internet outages are such fun! Especially when they come IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING MY COLUMN!

Let’s talk magic. You know it, you love it, and it gives me a frakking headache. There are few more obnoxious things for me to come across in comics, then the concept of magic. And here’s the thing, I love Dr. Strange, and I’m a big Dr. Fate fan, and I’ve had a crush on Zatanna since I was eight. But I loathe magic.  I hate the concept of a deus ex machina, and there are few things that fit the mold better then magic as a whole.

When Bendis brought Strange onto the New Avengers, he said in a few interviews leading in that he was making an effort to have Strange fit into the book without having the magical God mode that everyone would expect. I felt he did a pretty good job, but then again, Strange quit the team pretty freaking quickly, not even showing his face during the Skrull invasion. But I guess that if I had Night Nurse to come home to, and I could make my house appear in another dimension, I’d probably never come out either.

I should mention a little preface about magic though, and that is that I’ve never been a fan of it. Period. In or out of comics, it’s just never managed to do anything for me. Never liked magicians, never liked sorcery, hell, I only watched Harry Potter for the first time six months ago so I could see what the fuss was about. It bores me. I mean, wheee, magical words and waving fingers make shit happen! SUPER IMPRESSED! And wait, no matter what situation you find yourself stuck in, there’s a spell to get out of it?

CONVENIENCE!

It’s always just felt too easy answer for my tastes, like so long as you had magic there was no chance you could lose. Hell, anyone remember Hexen? I wouldn’t even play as the spell caster in it! It just always felt too easy of an answer. In fact, come to think of it, the first time I ever truly accepted magic was when I rolled a Shaman in World of Warcraft, and spent most of my level grind living off of my lightning bolts.

So yeah, magic is kinda sorta not my thing. And when I’m reading the current arc of New Avengers I’m finding myself completely pulled out of the story more often then I manage to stick with it. By no fault at all is it of Bendis, rather just my simple distaste. I don’t care about there being a new sorcerer supreme, not in the least bit. Especially when the contenders include Son of Satan and Brother Voodoo. I mean, seriously, when was the last time anyone heard about Damion Hellstrom? I at least can say I remember Brother Voodoo showing up in New Avengers just after Civil War to help Iron Man try and magic through Dr. Strange’s “You can’t see me” magic. Like he’s John Cena or something.

So needless to say, the reveal of Brother Voodoo being the new Sorcerer Supreme, after the New Avengers had a team up with Damion Hellstrom, did something less than nothing for me.

......righhhhhtttttt.

Your hair and absolutely impossible finger movement.

What I like about Dr. Strange is the character, not the abilities. I like the design, and I like the origin, but it’s rare that I find myself actually liking him. In fact, the first time I can remember ever getting into the character and wanting more was after reading Brian K Vaughan’s amazing mini series, “Dr. Strange: The Oath”, which I picked up in trade a few years back. The story of Strange doing whatever it takes to save Wong’s life from his cancer, and the reader learning about the nature of magic and science as they relate to each other. It introduced the Night Nurse to Dr. Strange, and started their relationship in a believable manner, that has carried over into the main canon of the Marvel Universe through an appearance in New Avengers, which is just awesome. In all seriousness though, you don’t need to be a fan of magic or Dr. Strange to enjoy this….it’s Brian K Vaughan. Read it just because of that. It’s all the reason you should need.

Strange and the nurse

  • Strange and the nurse.....and with Dead Girl.
  • …..and with Dead Girl.
  • I bet Clea is going to come back jealous.
  • I bet Clea is going to come back jealous.
  • On the talk of Dr. Strange mini’s, there’s also Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix Presents Dead Girl. Yes, I know, doesn’t sound too Dr. Strange like, but it’s him and everyone’s favorite corpse going through the underworld. Guest appearances by Gwen Stacy, Mockingbird, Moira MacTaggart, Phantom Rider, Scott Lang, Kraven, Mysterio, and Miss America. Oh, and for the X-Statix fan in all of us, the book also featured the returns of Tike Alicar, Guy Smith, and Edie Sawyer…..better known as The Anarchist, Mr. Sensitive, and U-Go-Girl! Maybe it was Dr. Strange talking about his hemorrhoids, maybe it was Dead Girl kicking all kinds of ass, or maybe it was Edie bitching out Guy for being a whiny little bitch, but I loved this miniseries. It’s a tremendous shame that Marvel chooses to not acknowledge the existence of X-Statix in the current canon…..such a great little idea with some amazing stories already told. Sure Milligan killed them all in the last issue, but one can just imagine what could be done if he was allowed to come back and do it all again.

    Actually, fuck it, let’s talk about X-Statix! I was originally going to segue into JLA and McDuffie’s recent firing by talking about Zatanna, but I can do that next week. Right now I want to talk about the post-modern, mainly satirical, celebrities as super heroes, controversial super team known originally as X-Force, and then as X-Statix.

    X-Force had been, for a hundred and fifteen issues, the militant X team. They were the New Mutants, led by Cable, and drawn by Rob Liefeld. There were big guns, big fights, big tits, and no feet. That was X-Force when it debuted. Eventually it toned down, and the book remained fun, if not more story driven, but eventually Cable left. Time passed, shit happened, and then after a few reboots (some good, some meh, and one done by Loeb during his “I can write!” period) the team died. That was issue one-fifteen.

    Issue #116

    Issue #116

    Issue one sixteen I remember reading about at the time it came out, which was during my last “no comics” period, and I remember the immediate controversy. No comics code logo, which apparently is a big deal (maybe I’ll rant about them some day if people want), and a shit ton of over the top violence and sex for a comic, especially an X title. It was the ideal that in this day and age where celebrity is key, that a superhero team would go on missions just to look good for the camera. That they would market the hell out of their identities, and sell their images, and take full advantage of who they are to get rich. Sure, they had a low life expectancy, but all the more reason to play it up.

    The first issue featured a team using the name X-Force, led by a man named Zeitgeist. The team featured members like U-Go-Girl and Doop, and the issue featured heavily on The Anarchist joining the team, complete with him giving an interview from a hotel suite, bare ass naked, blowing the roof off of the building with his powers, and then declaring to the cops that he was in X-Force and could do whatever he wanted. He, of course, got away with it. Milligan dropped us in the deep end, and didn’t leave us to drown. He made sense out of this world and lifestyle, enough in one issue that by the end we knew just how low the life expectancy really was. That’s right, the first issue ended with all but two members of the team (and Doop) dying in a near massacre over a BOY BAND! Seriously, who has done that before? Let alone in a way that makes you that much more excited for the next issue?

    This is how you end a first issue.

    This is how you end a first issue.

    The team quickly rebuilt, but had to contend with personal issues. Tike, for instance, had OCD that kept him washing his hands because as a child someone joked that it would wash the black off. That’s right, the team’s “Black Guy”, as he liked to be known as, wanted to be white. Which wound up coming up several times through the first series, especially when a thuggish black mutant named Spike joined the team and Tike kept thinking he was going to get killed off because the team didn’t need two black people.

    Edie “U-Go-Girl” Sawyer was a teleporter that was also narcoleptic, an alcoholic, and addicted to more pills then one cares to admit. She ran away from her small town, mid west home, just after giving birth to her daughter (at about seventeen and unmarried….her daughter grew up thinking Edie was her sister). Edie never looked back. She wound up in Hollywood where she worked as a waitress while trying to get into acting. She dated a writer who showed her the horrors of humanity as he offered her up sexually to a director to get a script sold, saying it would land her a part. Edie never went through with it and dropped the boyfriend off naked in the desert. So now she’s in Hollywood, she isn’t bad with her powers, why not steal stuff? So she did, and then she got about the time she discovered X-Force, and more appropriately, Zeitgeist, and decided that was what she wanted to be. She tried to meet him and was given the chance to go up with the groupies, but choosing to be more than just a lay for him, she masters her powers and joins the team as U-Go-Girl.

    The relaunch

    The relaunch

    Guy Smith was my favorite character though, The Orphan, Mr. Sensitive. His power was that, well, he was too sensitive. He wore a suit created for him by Professor X to filter out all the sensations that would normally drive him mad. He wound up being the leader, much to the dismay of Tike and Edie, but it paid off. Originally he was the Orphan, because a fire during his childhood supposedly killed his parents….actually, they set it to kill him and wound up spending the rests of their lives in jail. Which led to his nightly ritual of Russian Roulette. Gotta love that, the leader of this big rich super hero team puts a gun to his head every night to try his luck. And thanks to his powers, Guy had this Daredevil esque way about him with nerve points and a radar sense, he just always seemed to do everything….faster. Really awesome character, layers of depth. Definitely a corner stone of the series.

    There were also Phat and Vivesector, who I’ll tie together. Phat had the ability to ‘phat up’ and add mass to his body parts, which gave him either a Blob like defense or….an extremely original offense. Vivesector, on the other hand, was a mutant werewolf. Phat was the text book definition of a white kid thinking he’s black, and Vivesector was an Ivy Leaguer. Why do they come together in this though? Because to garner more media attention for themselves, they pretended to be a gay couple. Then they tried having sex together. That….was awkward. They wound up with the realization that both were, in fact, homosexual. Just….not together. Never together.

    And then there’s Dead Girl; who never wanted to be a role model, just a sex symbol. Her power was that she was, well, dead. She was a corpse. She could get blown to pieces and pull herself back together, or talk with the recently dead. A lot of really weird shit, but hey, the character would go between disturbing and hilarious on a regular basis, so it all sorta worked out. She was the feature in the only true return to X-Statix since cancellation, in a miniseries where she and Dr. Strange had a team up. Also during which her real name was revealed to be Moonbeam.

    vs. The Avengers

    vs. The Avengers

    The team battled themselves, foreign governments, the media, the original X-Force (for a few pages), reality warpers, creatures living in other dimensions, their own egos, and even the Avengers. They did it all, and they grew because of it. For characters defined by their celebrity, they were surprisingly more deep then most other big name characters. Especially at the time. X- Statix, at the time, featured more leveled characterization than any other X book. Then again though, this is the era of the X that Marvel tries to make us forget. Between Grant Morrison’s New X-Men which was too awesome too soon for modern readers, or Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men which is thankfully being purged from the thoughts and minds of everyone, and Claremont’s Xtreme X-Men which….well, I’m guessing is being retconned out as well. It was a sad day for X-Men, the early….2000’s? That’s what you call it, right? Well it was a dark period. For as many good books as there were in the X line, there were just as many horrid ones. And all of them have been wiped from continuity, some fortunate, some unfortunate. But it’s all gone just the same.

    The sad part about writing about X-Statix is that it’s been so long since Marvel has done ANYTHING with the characters that part of me thinks that my memories are all that will carry the existence. The trades are out of stock and the prices have been jacked up because of it, but unlike most books that have cult followings and this issue, I don’t see X-Statix getting the rerelease trades or hardcovers. I just see it simply….fading off into the background, to be forgotten by all but the most loyal of fans. A sad end to an amazing group. Especially since in the last issue Milligan left the same way he came on board….by killing everyone. Hell of a way to clean house.

    Last Issue

    Last Issue

    Now to wait for the day when another writer proves themselves to actually be capable or wrapping up a book in such a Milligan manner, kill their cast without seeming hokey and forced. It’s a challenge, and Mr. Milligan has lain down the gauntlet.

    About fucking time!

    Remember how I said that I was hoping and praying that Jerry Ordway would dig into the old talent reserves when he tackled JSA as a solo creator? That he wouldn’t blatantly phone in a job that leaves a black ugly mark on his track record like the Black Adam arc? Yeah, he did good, because his first issue of JSA (while not spectacular) is fundamentally sound. The characters look like they’re supposed to, and not as if he rushed through drawing them because his arc is a fill in. And while I can’t say I completely get where the story is going after one issue, he definitely has me hooked and ready for part two. More so then Willingham and Sturges have me read for their run, which I’m still very much openly on the fence about it.

    Batman Alive wasn’t a waste of my three bucks, but at the same time, it wasn’t exactly the most worth it purchase I’ve put under my belt in recent memory either. The problem with this book was not so much the idea as it was the execution, in that having little four to six page stories that appear in the book ends of the crossover is hardly the way to create compelling story telling. You got an introduction, and something resembling an ending, but with no middle. Sure the characters were spot on, but then again, look at the writer. The highlight of this has to be Vicki Vale putting everything together on her own at the end, because at least that screams out the potential of another writer tackling the plot, which could be awesome. I kinda want to see Chris Yost tap it for Red Robin.

    God Damn

    God Damn Vicky Vale

    Is it bad that the only thing that I didn’t like about Teen Titans this most recent issue is that Eddie didn’t go off with Rose? I’ve loved the dynamic between the two characters since his first “Hot Damn” at her being a seductress, and I think that now, more than ever, something could actually work for them as a relationship. At the same time, I see clearly why they wouldn’t go off together, I just…..is it so bad that I just want to see them get together even for one issue? Eddie fucking deserves it! He’s the powerless, virgin, single Titan. That means he’s at the top of the kill list, filling space left vacated by Wendy and Marvin.

    Runaways was cute and priceless. Between Molly making Wolverine broadcast his wish to disembowel Cyclops, and Chase almost starting a fight between the Runaways and the Youngest X-Men, the book was priceless from cover to cover. Molly and Logan have perfect chemistry, and it’s been seen quite a few times thus far. On one end you the gruff, tough, face of the mutant world (for some reason), and on the other you have this cute little girl who is strong as a tank and is far enough away from maturity that she can get away with childish antics. And of course, there had to be the special message that no matter how bad her parents may have been, that they loved her very much. I adore the writing of Chris Yost, I have to be honest. He consistently blows me away with his solo writing (not that it’s overly spectacular, but it’s more than I expected out of him so it’s always a pleasant surprise). And then the backup story about the Runaways playing truth or dare was completely made with Klara’s little comment.

    Priceless

    Priceless

    Messiah War is pissing me off, not going to lie. The art for both books has been pulling me out of the action, which sucks, because both have capable artists who definitely have their places on these books but, I mean, for an all out action crossover, you need artists that can handle it. And not to say that Clayton Crain and Ariel Olivetti can’t cut it, because trust me, both can, but their styles are contrasting against each other and neither is really managing to get the full impact with their art. Both feel dry, emotionless, and…well, flat. I think it was a bad choice to lead off the crossover with a beautifully drawn prologue by Mike Choi when he wasn’t going to doing any more art for it. He had a controlled chaos in his art that made everything seem that much more wicked and dangerous, and still kept the character breathing and living on panel. Crain and Olivetti are fine for their own stuff, but with this many characters and this much going on, we really need an artist, or artists, who are able to breathe life into the pages. Hopefully after Messiah War we’ll get back to that and the books can get back to pace and quality with how they were before this event.

    JLA has completely fallen to the point of being a mockery of itself, and that’s pathetic. McDuffie has been clearly on the way out for a few issues now, the roster is almost impossible to figure out since DC can’t decide from one week to the next who is going to be available to join the team. Then there’s the fact that Len Wein, who I have nothing but respect for, is writing the book half of the time with a VERY dated style that feels like it’s right out of the silver age. The book needs a shot in the arm, and unfortunately it won’t be able to get one until after this horrendous Starbreaker story wraps up. Unfortunate as well is that without McDuffie this book will also be losing its Milestone presence which is about the only highlight right now.

    Legacy took a gamble and, for the umpteenth time, Rogue has been granted control of her powers. Though unlike previous attempts to do so, for once it doesn’t feel cheaply done, though when Mike Carey is on the job that tends to happen. Legacy is definitely the thinking man’s X-Men book, as it works all the various threads from continuity together to form a coherent manuscript without stepping on the toes of others. Carey takes stories from all over the canon that most writers would choose to forget, and he actually manages to evolve the characters with them in believable manners. Yes, it’s probably only a matter of time before Rogue falls back to status quo, but at least for the mean time we’ll be able to enjoy it. Even those of us who hate the character and only seem to like her because we like the way Carey writes.

    Ms. Marvel continues its intrigue as Karla keeps making the job her own. While the first issue was very easy to pick up and read, this one really felt like prior knowledge of Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel run would have been a huge plus. I have no idea what is going on with AIM, just that for some reason Karla dropped an asteroid on them? Or they did it to themselves? Or they don’t like Norman? I am completely lost, admittedly, but I still want the next issue. That’s a good thing, right?

    Authority threw me for a loop. See, last month went and gave us a peak at the team right after the world seemingly died, the immediate reactions. We saw Hawksmoor on fire as he became crippled, leaving him the mess he was when the book launched. We saw Angie bleeding out her nanites, explaining why she was a baseline. And we saw Habib completely freak out and kill himself. Alright, that’s cool. That’s three. We know that Swift and Midnighter are the same, and that Apollo just couldn’t live on Earth because he needs solar energy, but……where’s Jenny? I was hoping this issue would pick up on that and finish the story, but instead it’s about Apollo being gone, Angie having some of her power back, and Jack being back on his feet. That’s cool, but where the fuck is Jenny?!

    Nova has been facing a problem recently; the combination of covers and solicits that flat out spoil the book from month to month. I mean, yes, it’s still an awesome title, and one of my top picks of the week, but I really wish I didn’t know going in how it would end. Marvel will black out and classify solicits for the Avengers line if they have spoilers, but with Nova they just throw them out there like it’s nothing. Newflash Marvel, Nova is higher quality than half of the books you classify solicits for. So how about letting us readers have our element of surprise as well?

    Back in Action!

    Back in Action!

    Guardians of the Galaxy, however, had crossover syndrome. The team is split in two parts, one half with the Starjammers, the other half with the Inhumans. The core of it all is happening over in War of Kings, so it was up to DnA to handle the plots that they wouldn’t be tackling in the core mini in this issue. And they did an admirable job at it too, not compromising the book just to have a tie in. And hey, there’s an actual sense of urgency and a legitimate need to read this title if you’re into the War at all, because they decided to go and make some big stuff happen in this title. Like next issues promise of Inhumans vs Imperial Guard with the Guardians stuck in the middle.

    New Avengers…..has already been ranted about. Brother Voodoo. Wheee.

    Iron Fist continues its upward trend, though I must admit my fear at the upcoming Immortal Weapons miniseries. Not that I haven’t been screaming for more attention to be paid to these awesome characters, but rather that I fear what’s going to happen to Danny. I mean, are they putting Iron Fist on hiatus or are they canning it? These are questions that inquiring minds NEEDS to know answers to!

    We got our first look into the origin of Larfleeze; Agent Orange, and boy was it a good one. One thing I love about Geoff Johns is that he really does go that extra mile to tie together plots so that nothing ever feels like it just happens for the sake of it. So tying Agent Orange not only into the closed off Vega sector, but also Parallax, and the erased pages from the Book of Oa, it works. Boy does it work. And Larfleeze is downright disturbing! I mean, that last page? Oh boy, I can not WAIT for the next issue! Just like I want to see how John Stewart reacts to Fatality some more. And also, I think we’ve got about four, maybe five, of the new laws of the book of Oa. Where are the rest? We were promised ten back during the Sinestro Corps War! I want fulfillment!

    Johns is the master of making all the pieces fit together.

    Johns is the master of making all the pieces fit together.

    Did Scandal Savage fuck Bane? Or did she just spoon him while he went through Venom withdrawl? Also, is Venom withdrawl like Heroin withdrawl? I mean, is it that hardcore? I’d hope it is. I mean, it makes Bane see EVERYONE as Batman when he’s on it, so it is one hell of a drug. I’d also like to know why Jeannette wasn’t wearing her underwear, if not just because she never got around to answering Floyd when he asked her. I like those two together, it entertains me to no end. Actually, this entire book succeeds at that. I laugh, I sit on the edge of my seat, I fear for the longevity of these characters, and I take much pleasure in all of it. Gail Simone and Nicola Scott with yet another knockout.

    The Mighty is finally starting to pay off as the mystery deepens around Alpha One and events linked to him after last issues starting ending. The book is definitely still finding it’s leg, but the new twist which shall go unspoiled is breathing enough excitement into the book to keep it steady on my pull list. Not a must read yet, but definitely showing the promise of it coming sooner than later.

    I’m about willing to put money on the Blink in Exiles definitely being the old Blink, especially after the complete “WTF” moment at the team leaving an unfixed Earth. Everyone else was cool with it, but she was really seeming peeved and surprised. Kind of a sign that she’s been there and done that before, and having read the original run of Exiles, they did NOT leave Earths without fixing them.

    Mighty Avengers continues to do everything right, and while I could spend paragraphs detailing how awesome it is that Slott understands the characters he’s using and doesn’t short on the development for any of them, but I’d rather leave you with a new addition in “Hank Pym’s greatest hits”.

    Oh, its on alright.

    Oh, it's on alright.

    World of New Krypton was another good issue, but I feel somewhat let down. I mean, here you have Hal, John, and Ion show up on New Krypton, and it was just a police chase? What happened to that cover of Kal vs Hal? I wanted to see it! Though there was a little one off line I noticed where Sodam Yat seemed surprised that Mon El was on Earth, which hopefully means that he’ll be showing up over in Superman to do a little Daxamite reunion. The ending….did not surprise me, and in fact, like all readers, I felt it was only a matter of issues before Zod screwed Kal over.

    I like how Norman explained himself in Dark Avengers, and I like the way Bendis writes him. He learned a thing or two from Ellis, in that Norman is completely fucking insane, but he’s also something of a politician. He knows how to talk, he knows how to spin, and he knows how to handle a situation. He turned a potentially disatrous situation with Clint Barton outing his Dark Avengers as villains, and spun it into people looking for a second chance. Sure, that’s complete bullshit, but it worked. And Karla went back to being Karla, as she banged Noh Var…..who somehow had not yet realized he was on a team of super villains. All this and the Sentry reveals that he’s fucking immortal.

    Karla being Karla

    Karla being Karla

    Is it bad that when I saw Lilandra walking through the city in War of Kings that I knew exactly how it would end?

    What I read last week:

    • Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive
    • Green Lantern
    • JLA
    • JSA
    • Superman
    • Teen Titans
    • Avengers The Initiative
    • Guardians of the Galaxy
    • Immortal Iron Fist
    • Ms. Marvel
    • New Avengers
    • Nova
    • Runaways
    • X-Force
    • X-Men Legacy

    Best of the week:

    1. Green Lantern
    2. Nova
    3. X-Men Legacy

    What I read this week:

    • The Authority
    • Batman and Robin
    • The Mighty
    • Secret Six
    • World of New Krypton
    • Dark Avengers
    • Exiles
    • Mighty Avengers
    • War of Kings

    Best of the week:

    1. Batman and Robin
    2. Secret Six
    3. Dark Avengers

    The Gold Standard

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